Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Unexpected Gift of Easter

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’" – John 20:19-23  

“While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” – Luke 24: 51-52 

Sometimes Jesus' gifts and blessings to us come in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble, through grief and fear. These times parallel the feelings that the disciples felt on Good Friday as they watched their Lord die on a cross for crimes He didn't commit. At such times, we can know His goodness only through our trust in Him. A trust that He layed the foundation for years ago, first on the cross at Calvary, through His suffering for our sins, and then through His promised resurrection and the gift of a Helper to live within us always, to give us the power that we can only find through Him. Understanding of our circumstances will fail us, but trust will keep us close to Him.

Jesus gives us the gift of His peace, a gift of such immense proportions that we cannot fathom its depth or breadth. This peace surpasses all worldly explanation, but when we give ourselves to Him, fully, He does not fail us. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, it was Peace that He communicated first of all. He knew this was their deepest need: to calm their fears and clear their minds and anxious thoughts. Some things never change.

He designed us to dwell in Peace all day, every day. Draw near to Him; receive His Peace. And praise Him for He is risen indeed!
May the peace of Easter be with you today and always.

~with help from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Thanks so much for your prayers and messages yesterday! Sara Ashley woke up at 3 am with a fever of 104. We dosed her with ibuprofen and her fever seems to have broken. I'll be calling the doctor back today. This is the 15th day of school my sweet girl has missed this year and I am not happy with it. I'm going to request to have some blood work done so we can make sure there's not more going on than the obvious.

Yesterday I shared with you some of the complexities of dealing with adhd. You also got a glimpse of the pain and frustration I often feel about this disorder. It's real. I have a love/hate relationship with it.

Today, I have been digging in my archives. I came across this devotion that I wrote a few years ago. The timing was good. I needed to read this again to help me realize that it's not all bad. I thank God for His help in giving me a new perspective and I thank my friends and family for their support when I inevitably experience anger and grief.

It's all about choices. Thankfully, with Him, JOY can come in the morning.

Devotional written 2/2011. God was already preparing my heart for this journey...

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.                                                                 Romans 12:6-8

Sara Ashley 2011

My daughter, a dark haired beauty, has an incredible talent for art, an athletic build for swimming and a heart of gold. She is known for her giving spirit and her sweet nature. She also has the “gifts” of adhd and dyslexia. And ALL of these combined traits make her the wonderful person that she is.

This hasn’t always been so easy for me to profess. And admittedly, I sometimes still have trouble accepting the issues that surround her diagnoses, but, through the grace of God, I have learned to look at the bigger picture and it is mighty big!

During one particularly trying period of time, I begged God to take away her differences and make her “normal”, like most every other child we know. Couldn’t He see that her adhd made it difficult for her to remember things, difficult for her to sit still in her seat and even kept her from being able to concentrate on the daily tasks at hand? Didn’t He know that her dyslexia meant that she had to suffer through endless hours of phonics tutoring, difficulty with reading comprehension and just plain difficulty with reading in general? My mind screamed, “Isn’t this cruel and unusual punishment for a little girl??” My anger would often get the best of me and I would implore for God to “cure” her of these differences that sometimes make life difficult for her.

It was during one of these challenging times that my husband came to me with the words that I needed to hear.
“Honey, all of these things make her who she is. And she is so very special just the way she is.”  A few simple words that made such a tremendous impact on my way of thinking.

The same hyperactivity that makes it difficult for my daughter to sit still in her seat also gives her the energy to endure challenging swim meets. And the same issue that makes it difficult for her to decode words gives her the ability to look at things differently and with a unique and artistic eye.

God has made my daughter wonderfully (Psalm 139:14), His workmanship created her to do good works for Him (Ephesians 2:10). She is not defined by her differences or strengths, rather these combined traits give her the ability to lift, serve and teach others, glorify God and to just be the special person that she is.
May we each remember this about all of our special children!

v  Lord, You are the perfect Creator. Help me to remember the many gifts that you bestow upon each and every one of us. Amen

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:1-16

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Well, today is day three of poor Sara Ashley being home sick. It started Monday morning with a fever of 101 and today we are still there. She woke up this morning, burning hot, fever of 101.9. This despite the fact that I took her to the doctor on Monday afternoon to get checked for strep throat, flu or any other treatable illness. While I did leave with an antibiotic for a bacterial sinus infection, at this point I think we are looking at something viral that only time will cure.

Whenever SA gets sick, it is always a struggle to figure out what to do about her adhd meds. See, without them, her hyperactivity and impulsiveness make it difficult for her to rest. But with them, unless she is dog sick, the stimulant mediciation also makes it difficult for her to rest. Monday and Tuesday I gave them to her. She always does better with consistency in her medications- prevents rebound, breakdowns, feelings of lack of control on her part- but she did not rest at all either day. So today, I'm going to try and see how she does without them. My hope is that she'll sleep most of the day and be able to re-build the strength that her body needs to fight off this yucky sickness.

Dealing with adhd is not an easy task. Admittedly, Sara Ashley's diagnosis of adhd upset me MUCH more than her diagnosis of dyslexia. There is a stigma related to adhd in our society. It says that these kids are just undisciplined, unruly and that they have a choice about their "bad" behavior. The fact that science has proven that their brains show a physical difference from a "normal, average" brain is often overlooked because of the behavior often associated with the diagnosis. And the medication issues are just heartbreaking to me. I still struggle with giving my child a stimulant everyday. Yes, I DO realize that this medication keeps her from having a healthy appetite. Yes, I DO realize that if the dosage isn't just right she goes into zombie mode. And yes, I DO ALSO realize that if she didn't take it she would be unable to focus on her schoolwork and classroom teaching as she does now (trust me, we've tried) despite the small class setting and specialized teaching that she is receiving at her wonderful school. And I also realize that her hyperactive and impulsive behavior, though not destructive, would be socially unacceptable by many of her peers and the other adults around us.

So here we are, she's sick, I'm tired, and I am praying that God will allow her hyperactive little body to slow down and repair itself. I know that God's got my back in this and that she WILL be fine. I will find strength in Him.
I'm just tired...and a little sad. Say a prayer for my sweet girl if you get a chance.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Refiner's Fire

"For He will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap...He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah, and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years." Malachi 3:2b, 3-4

The last seven years have been years of refining for me.
God is our refiner. He prepares His people for useful service by taking them from rough stones, purifying them and making them into gold and silver. Sometimes, it takes high levels of heat to completely rid us of our rough edges and sometimes just the warmth of a sunny day. Whatever the case, when He is finished with us, we are always better for it, shining in His light.

I'm a fairly intelligent person. I have always had a gift for spelling well, and what I lack in common sense, God has made up for in book sense. Many things do not come naturally to me, but if I study them long and hard enough, I can get the job done. Over the years I have become very self-sufficient and can take control of and handle most situations. I am a "get 'er done" kind of girl.
However, along with these attributes come the problems. Pride, self-reliance, disdain for other's perceived shortcomings, disappointment in the decisions of others if they aren't like my own, rigidness to change and even feelings of superiority. Certainly not the attributes desireable by our loving God, or anyone else for that matter!

It has only been over the lasts seven years that I have begun to see the error of my ways. And really only over the last three years that I have begun to surrender, allowing God to have His way with me. Breaking down my pride, my issues with control and shaping me into a person more interested in being His servant than a dictator. Although everyday isn't a success, it's a goal for me to stay fully connected to Him, shaped by His loving hands. So what made the change, you ask?

The answer is simple and complex and the same time. As we all know, life has a way of showing us that we aren't nearly as smart and in control as we thought we were. So this is certainly one of the reasons. But the main reason I have surrendered to Him is because He has opened my eyes to grace and humility through my daughter Sara Ashley and through the many children I continue to meet who face life challenges.

As I have watched these kids handle life on  a daily basis, with struggles as well as triumphs, I have begun to notice that, despite their learning differences and challenges, their attitudes remain positive and their contributions to this world are far greater than correct spelling and book smarts. I have been humbled through my interactions with them. Their wonder of the world around them, their kindness to others, their ability to see things with a different perspective, and their sweet spirits have taught me that life is about so much more than high marks, accolades, and worldly success. These are the traits that Jesus desires to have in His disciples and I can certainly take a lesson from these children.

God is refining me, day by day, into a mold that is pleasing to Him. And I am wax in His hands.

Friday, March 22, 2013


With her head full of corkscrew curls and her warm smile, Lily will win you over the minute you see her. I have the honor of attending church with this sweet little girl and watching her bring joy to every task she performs and to everyone she meets.

As Lily's mom, Wendy, will tell you, "I cannot be anything but joy-filled when I am with her!"
Along with this joy, Lily also faces the challenges that come with her diagnosis of Turner Syndrome.

Ts is a chromosomal disorder that only affects girls. It occurs in one out of every 2500 births and is responsible for 10% of all miscarriages. Only 1% of Ts girls are born alive. Lily's life is a miracle! Sadly, in many countries outside of the United States, parents of Ts babies are encouraged to have abortions. Despite these odds, girls with Ts who do survive live long and meaningful lives, contributing greatly to society. (You might recognize a Ts lady on NCIS Los Angeles - Linda Hunt.) Lily's birth to Christian parents in the United States was a life-saving gift from God.

Lily has already endured heart surgery to repair her aorta and kidney surgery to repair a blockage. She also receives growth hormone treatments as small stature is a common symptom of Ts. Regular doctor's appointments include visits to her cardiologist, endocrinologist, and urologist, not to mention her pediatrician. But in spite of these challenges, Lily's life is happy and joy-filled. She is a true testament to our God who is "mighty to save," (Zephaniah 3:17) which also happens to be Lily's favorite song! (Hillsong)

Recently Lily's mom, Wendy, was sharing with me that Lily has the gift of healing. Through her actions and her words she offers compassion and love to anyone who is hurting. God has given her the ability to identify those who are in pain. Whether it is emotional pain or physical pain, she recognizes it. When she comes in contact with someone in pain, Lily is quick to hover over them and pray for them immediately. And she always remembers them in her bedtime prayers too. This ability to understand and recognize other people's pain is unusual for a child with Ts. Often these girls have a hard time reading social cues and understanding emotions. But not Lily. God blessed her with this ability and she uses it to glorify Him. 

I thank you God, for Lily. She is a gift and a blessing from You. Her contributions to this world are immense and her joy is a  testament to Your love. Thank you for Your healing hand in her life and for the healing that she passes on to others. Amen.

You can learn more about Lily in the upcoming book "Unexpected Gifts."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All in for HIM

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of wonderful encouragements by God. As I have sought out contributors for the book, "Unexpected Gifts", I have already met many, many people who desire to share stories of the blessings they have received from and through their special kids. These wonderful parents are an inspiration to me and I know that you will be blown away by their stories of hope, encouragement, and the limitless love of God through their circumstances.
Funny how life works. You go years and years without even realizing that an entire population exists and then you reach out in faith and BOOM, the flood gates are opened! Have you ever had this happen to you?

This past week I had the opportunity to share such an occurance at Sunday School. Lewis Jackson, one of my teachers, taught a few classes about how the Holy Spirit works in and through us, speaking to us if we will listen. His lessons were about hearing God's voice, hearing the enemy's voice and how to tell the difference. One great thing about this class is the willingness of people to share their experiences. Lewis asked if anyone wanted to speak and several told inspiring stories. After some hesitation, I also shared that I would be writing a book.

"I know, I know...pie in the sky idea," I told them. "But God layed it on my heart and I HAD to listen and obey." Truth be told, obedience is not always so easy for me but for some reason, this time was different. Maybe it was his recent teachings that encouraged me to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I certainly knew that this project had the potential to bear fruit. Or maybe it was the encouragement of the my husband and friends. Whatever the reason, I could not say no. Have you ever felt the strength of God's request for you in this way? So powerful, that you just could NOT let it go??

I also shared with them that the minute I began the formal steps of writing the book, I clearly heard the voice of the enemy. I had just hit "Send" on the email to potential contributors when the taunting began.

"You have no idea how to write a book Christi! What in the world do you think you're doing?? You don't have the skills, the brains or the connections. Even if you do write the book, who will publish it? Who will even want to read it?"
Sound familiar? We all hear it sometimes. But this time I recognized it for what it truly was. The enemy. Still, fear clouded my brain and I struggled to stay focused on my assignment from God. 

But guess what? Within a few short hours of hearing these voices of doom and gloom, God showed up in a mighty way, opening doors that I had not even known existed!
Emails from friends and acquaintances wanting to contribute their stories to the book came pouring in. Words of encouragement were shared from people who have their own special kids and KNOW how a book like this can help other parents. And unknown connections with publishers and writers willing to help me edit the stories were offered.

This is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. Daily, I continue to hear from parents about their special children, their faith in God and their gratefulness in being able to share their stories. This is about a community of believers sharing how God has blessed them through these amazing children. This is about a God that loves us so much that He shows us His gifts when we least expect them. And this is about giving our thanks and praise to HIM.

God is undoubtedly reassuring me this is the journey He wants me to take. Perhaps He has one in mind for you too. You just need to take that next step in FAITH. 
In receiving these confirmations from Him, my resolve to continue has taken full flight.
Hebrews 13:20-21 empowers us telling us, "Now may the God of peace...make you complete in every good work to do His will."
God will equip me for this task, I am certain.
And I'm all in for Him!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Emery Claire

Recently I had the unique opportunity to spend several quiet and uninterrupted hours with a friend in Christ. We were working at a spiritual retreat and were both in the chapel at the same time waiting for another friend to complete a task.
Over that same weekend I had been in the chapel two times earlier for the same reason but with different people and, admittedly, I was a little tired of sitting and waiting. I was soon to find out that God had BIG reasons for me to be spending more time there.

Sophia is a few years wiser than me and as we sat and talked we realized we had much in common. Her son also has dyslexia. She shared with me his struggles while growing up, how they handled them and sympathized with the concerns I have for our daughter. However, she also gave me much hope and reassurance as she told me of his job as an insurance agent and the successes he has had in his life. Despite his learning difficulties, he is doing more than fine. He is doing great!

But this was not the only story we were meant to share that day. You see, Sophia's daughter had recently given birth to their grandchild, a precious little girl named Emery Claire. She was born with Down Syndrome. As any grandparent and parent will admit, the birth of a child with a chromosomal condition is not what they would have planned. Sophia shared the pain of learning that her grandchild would have Ds and the grief she suffered for the life her grandchild would have led. However, she also shared that through the birth of Emery Claire she has found great joy. This little girl is the apple of her eye, giving her a new perspective on life and God's purposes for all of us.

Emery Claire

God works in ways that none of us can understand. However, over the last few years I have come to realize He provides for us exactly what we need if we will simply trust Him and follow His lead. Through a myriad of circumstances, He put me and Sophia together that day to share our pain and struggles, but also our victories and our joys. Most importantly, He reminded us that although His ways are not our ways, they are infinitely better than anything our humanness could ever even imagine.

Isaiah 55:8-11

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Note: Look for more information about Emery Claire and Sophia in the upcoming book "Unexpected Gifts."